Reverse engineering an RGB LED remote

In the quest to add some mood lighting in his basement, [Mohonri] found an infrared wireless remote that is able to control several RGB LED strips. The only problem with this remote is the inability to control it via a wall-mount panel or even a computer. Obviously this would not stand for such a swank basement, so [Mohonri] did the reasonable thing and reverse engineered one of these remotes.

The build started with ripping the remote apart and figuring out how it ticks. [Mohonri] found the small IR LED transmitter and hooked up an oscilloscope to capture some data. After a bunch of trial and error and a big help from relevant documentation he had the entire button matrix – and thus the functions available to the LED strip – available to output via wall panel or computer.

[Mohonri] hasn’t completed his build yet; this was just the reverse engineering and documentation stage. Now, though, it shouldn’t be hard to control the RGB LED strips through an Arduino, a computer, or even an Android/iOS device with a small IR LED plugged into the headphone jack.

25 thoughts on “Reverse engineering an RGB LED remote

  1. Isn’t this the wrong way to go? The PWM in these cheap units is low frequency and has choppy fading.

    I would have rather made a new PWM controller that accepts the old remote as an input along with computer commands and a wall panel.

      1. That is one small Bedrroom. You should lower the ceiling by installing a baldachin to make it a cozy lovehole. Girl love baldachines ;)

    1. That’s the whole point–design a receiver that’s compatible with the cheap remotes out there, but with better implementation and more features.

  2. “The only problem with this remote is the inability to control it via a wall-mount panel or even a computer. ”

    I contol them just fine from a computer or wall panel. LEarn the IR, re send the IR. REally easy to do.

      1. seems that someone doesn’t know what LIRC is.

        I use these in my theater, took me 10 minutes to learn the IR codes and have the XBMC box to control them.

        Sounds like you are the Fail Troll.

  3. I hacked the exact same lighting controller.
    My approach was to completely replace the controller on the board with an atmega328 and program a new firmware which accepts commands via a wireless home automation protocol named FS20.
    I also took the time to decap the controller that’s onboard because the marking of the chip had been grinded off. Turns out it is an 8bit 8051 derivative with 4kb flash from a small company whose name I’ve already forgotten and since I didn’t have the programming equipment for this I went for a complete replacement.

    1. Thanks for the details. I was about to comment too that I bought these exact LEDs and controllers in Shenzhen, China (see link). I plan to hack them a bit too.

  4. Thanks a bunch for this. I was just about to upgrade my home network with some kind of nrf24l01-to-IR AVR and this is one kind of task for it.

  5. I have a very similar RGB lighting strip setup on the back of my TV, and I just use my Harmony remote to automatically control the lighting depending on what activity I’m doing. Not as much work, but the result is quite cool.

  6. Would have been simpler to use a learning remote with a 6 pin “JP1″ header then download the captured codes.

    With that data there’s software to put together code sets to upload to other JP1 programmable remotes or to devices like the Logitech Harmony remote line and similar “super remotes”.

  7. I got one of these a couple weeks ago. The day after I installed it it suddenly decided to swap the channels from RGB to GRB, then a few minutes later to RBG and it has stayed there ever since. It still works perfectly but none of the colors are right. I haven’t bothered to look inside because it still works and it’s in a really difficult location to access.

    I’m a bit curious about how that’s even possible as someone who’s spent a lot of time designing electronics. Not that I’m particularly surprised or upset by this. When I buy the cheapest of something directly from China, I don’t really expect it to even work out of the box, that’s just a bonus.

    1. Did you ever find out what caused the channels to swap? I had a similar situation lately when my 2-year old nephew got the hold of the remote. I have no doubt that the little boy is an electronics genius but I have trouble getting him to tell me what he did with it and how to fix it.

    2. Try pressing the “Fade7″ button in the bottom right corner, I think there’s 1-7 options, watch out, I think it’s a sign that your controller (not the remote) is starting to go. Same thing happened to me

  8. I must’ve missed a part because I don’t see how copying IR code can be described as reverse engineering.

    I have two of those but if I had less projects waiting in a pile, I’d switch the internal circuitry of the controller way before sniffing the IR (which would then be completely useless since you just have to make it the way you want to control it).

    Still, thanks for sharing the information you got from it. Pretty sure you made someone’s project way easier.

  9. Ugh. I hate those controllers.

    See, I work with LEDs all the time, and when I come across something like this (and this isn’t the worst, mind you), I just get sad. There are just too many things wrong with it!

    The best option would be to use an Arduino with some mosphets to control LED Strips. Much more customizability, and much less bull crap.

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